Gristle Cold Blue Sky

Excepting tech metal act Scale the Summit, the now-defunct Galactic Cowboys were the biggest metal band to come out of Houston, TX since punk/thrash crossover act D.R.I., and now head honcho Ben Huggins finds an even more melodic seat in Gristle. Alongside son Shane (bass) and old friends Len Sonnier (guitar) and Chad Lyons (drums), Huggins creates the excellent Cold Blue Sky, injecting needed diversity into the dated King's X-dominated melodic subgenre, and from a variety of influences to boot. "Save Me" kicks off the album with a Queens of the Stone Age march, followed by the balladry of "All Alone in Paradise." "Making It All Go Away" resembles the rumbling engine of lost grunge rockers Ten Second Warning, only to open into Electric Light Orchestra-like choruses. "Turn to Salt" sports huge, Live-esque choruses, yet "Only Love Can Save Us Now" and "Suddenly I" have Throwing Copper-era verses with Bon Jovi-like sing-alongs. In a prophetic twist, "Why" sounds note-for-note like a Houston outtake from the Bottom of the Curve sessions, while "All the Offenders" could be a lost Katatonia cover from Last Fair Deal Gone Down. Add the Black Crowes country twang of "Myself" and Gristle easily pound out one of the year's best albums. For those tired of sub-par melodic metal throwbacks, Gristle offer a sound that hearkens back to the prog-sleaze of Love/Hate, with a heaping helping of the progressive melodicism of I Mother Earth. (Metal Blade)